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The Killing of History: How Literary Critics and Social Theorists are Murdering Our Past Paperback – 1 Jan 2000

3.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Encounter Books,USA; New edition edition (1 Jan. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1893554120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1893554122
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 14.6 x 22.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 581,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

About the Author

Keith Windschuttle

Customer Reviews

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By A Customer on 9 Oct. 1997
Format: Hardcover
Windschuttle's book is a courageous effort to engage the forces of theory and post-structuralism that are destroying history as an area of interest to those outside academia's ivory tower / padded cell.
Besides taking on those who would deny the value of empirical history, Windschuttle deconstructs the decontsructionists.

Whilst the work of any human is always open to improvement, Keith Windschuttlle deserves the garlands and praise of students throughout the world - students who have had to bite their lips whilst the noble pursuit of historical truth has been perverted into yet another turgid, theoretical social science.

Great Stuff.

G A F Connolly
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Format: Paperback
Windschuttle starts by being no more than half a degree off, but that means that by the end he's miles away from his target. Making 'accurate descriptive statements about events in the past' is all well and good as a goal, but if we do not understand the thought-processes and the epistemology by which we are making such 'accurate' and 'descriptive' statements, we might as well not bother. If Windschuttle has made anything more than an irritating dent in the armour of the likes of Michel Foucault, then I would be very surprised.
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By A Customer on 11 May 1999
Format: Hardcover
The killing of History first impresses the reader by the erudition of its author. Numerous and various researches are quoted, philosophical works resumed, schools of thoughts presented. Conducting his plea, the author first reviews in each chapter a major research belonging to the perspective he aims at criticising. His review appears frequently "objective" and the author seems to have had the ambition (at least for most of the chapters) to review the object of his critics adopting a neutral perspective. Then he proposes his comments trying to convince the reader that the traditional understanding of history or science has nothing to learn from the recent developments in philosophy of science. Windschuttle regularly fails in his attempt to rally all readers to his cause, mainly by the fact that he does not adopt the arguments of his opponents in order to criticise them (from the inside), in order to provide deconstructive critics. To that extent, Windschuttle does not further the debate, does not radically change it but rather offers more arguments to support his position, without breaking the legitimacy of his opponents. The killing of History may not further the debate, however, it is an impressive review of the various tendencies influencing not only history but the current reflection on knowledge and the scientific discourse in diverse disciplines.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.2 out of 5 stars 53 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exposes Stalinist Antiintellectuals in Academia and Media. 28 Sept. 2015
By Marvelous Mal - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is well-written and thoroughly documented. Windschuttle fairly presents the positions of those with whom he disagrees; then demonstrates the weaknesses of their positions. Windschuttle exposes the propaganda machine that is modern academia, in particular, the discipline of History. Just as the Stalinists wrote and re-wrote history as needed for political and social gain, so do modern, mainstream historians. Beware the Government-Academia-Media Complex!
5.0 out of 5 stars Taking Down Postmodern Relativism 17 Jun. 2017
By M. A. D'Virgilio - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If I could give this six stars I would. The author through careful argument and many examples eviscerates the pretensions of postmodern relativistic thought. He shows that it is not only self-refuting, but by definition hypocrisy in action. All relativism is self-refuting (as in, all truth is relative) because truth and absolute objective moral standards exist (I would argue only because God exists). Even in our understanding and knowledge of history. Windschuttle's views are, lamentably, in the minority among Western intellectuals, but he has truth on his side, and truth in the end will always win out.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Killing Is Indeed The Right Word 23 Aug. 2008
By Martin Asiner - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When western colleges and universities began to accept the relativist theories of poststructuralism, their English and comparative literature departments quickly became the first eager acolytes. It was not long before their history brethren followed suit. In THE KILLING OF HISTORY, Keith Windschuttle lucidly analyzes how this trend began, provides examples of the conversion in the very words of the New Believers, and shows how and why the speed of the general acceptance of historical relativism must surely lead to the killing of traditional history. Windschuttle's book is a scary polemic in that though his main concern is history, his fears apply equally well to the full range of academic disciplines.

Windschuttle begins by noting that the tendency for historians to acknowledge the very real baneful influences of prejudice, ideology, and bias have been self-acknowledged since classical Greece times. Yet, most history writers assumed that they could control these biases while still admitting that there were truly universal concepts like truth, justice, and facts. He adds that the first doubters were the 18th and 19th century philosophers like Nietzche, Hegel, Hume, and Marx. The real problem, he believes began with what he terms the "Paris Labels and Designer Concepts" of such poststructuralists as Derrida, Foucault, and Althusser, all of whom trashed the very notion of the existence of absolutes and replaced them with a basically anything goes methodology of writing history in which the line between fiction and fact becomes intentionally blurred so that the marginalized voices of the tongueless victims of what these postmoderns term a racist cabal of hated and self-hating Western ideologues may find voice.

Windschuttle considers the lamentable practice of writing history under the microscope of such divergent theories as semiotics, structuralism, poststructuralism, anti-humanism, posthistory, postmodernism, relativism, hermeneutics, induction, and even fiction, all of which share a common base in their reckless disregard of acknowledging how literal truth ought to occupy central stage in the writing of history. Windshuttle's favored tactic is to examine how representative theorists of relativism view specific historical events under the lens of their respective ideologies. He targets Cortez in Mexico, Cook in Hawaii, and the Aborignes of Australia. In each case, he uses the very words of the authors to undermine and demolish their premises. Without exception, all these relativist writers manifest a desire to expose what they deem as the not so latent racist underpinnings of western civilization so as to provide a voice of the marginalized. Windschuttle instead cleverly turns their argument that western culture is racist on its head by noting that the reverse is far more likely true.

The breadth of learning and erudition in THE KILLING OF HISTORY is astounding. Windschuttle's chapter of the discourses of Michel Foucault is the best that I have ever read. His closing comments in the Afterword succintly summarize his fear that the killing of his title is one that is not likely to go away anytime soon. THE KILLING OF HISTORY is required reading for anyone who wonders whether what they read in a history book is fact or fiction.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great defense of traditional history 2 Dec. 2008
By Jordan M. Poss - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
History is being murdered, says Keith Windschuttle, and the murderers are theorists, literary critics, and specialists in outside fields that have taken upon themselves the task of correcting traditional history and, in the process, deconstructing--that is, destroying--Western civilization. Windschuttle's claim may sound audacious or alarmist at first--especially to the non-historian, for whom history may be a hobby or interest but who may not think a lot about "theory" and "structures" of history--but over the course of The Killing of History, he makes a solid argument, backed with copious proof, that history is in the hands of those who hate the very discipline they claim to practice.

Windschuttle divides his book into chapters dealing with specific theories--"killers" of history--and how they treat a given topic from history. For instance, the chapter on semiotics, the study of "signs" and the significance of cultural gestures, treats the conquest of the Aztecs. The chapter on structuralism discusses the mutiny on the Bounty and the murder of Captain Cook. In each chapter, Windschuttle lets a popular representative of each opposing theory make a case, and then masterfully tears it down with a mix of fact, logical argument, and common sense. And in a surprising number of cases, the arguments of Windschuttle's opponents collapse when they are proven not wrongheaded, but false, as in a nonexistent Chinese taxonomical work cited by Foucault.

This topic is particularly near and dear to my heart. A surprising number of students, even at the university level, come to me with notions of history that are often entirely incorrect but were instilled in them by zealous, ideologically-driven teachers in high school or university. One that repeatedly crops up--in the book and in my own experiences--is the idea of cultural relativity. Windschuttle's book points out the errors in much of modern "historical" work and suggests that traditional Western history, as developed by the Greeks and perfected over the course of 2400 years, has succeeded because it is the best way to view history.

The best thing about Windschuttle's book is that he has chosen to write for a general audience. If you were intimidated by the ideas in my first paragraph, have no fear--Windschuttle has very carefully aimed to explain and clarify even the most complex problems posed by his enemies (which is not too strong a word in this context, I'm sure). That's not to say there aren't dense passages--the chapter on Michel Foucault is particularly tough reading--but Windschuttle's intention all along is to be a clear and forthright as possible, rather than hide behind a cloud of jargon like his opponents.

If you're looking for a set of good arguments against postmodernist, structuralist, or any "killer" of traditional history, this book is the place to start.

Highly recommended.
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eminently sensible 10 Oct. 2005
By Alyssa A. Lappen - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Roger Kimball wrote an especially fine review of Keith Windschuttle's excellent book in the New Criteron in September 1996; he began by asking "Where is Dr. Johnson when we need him?"

He meant Samuel Johnson, of course, of whom Boswell wrote, "Accustom your children constantly to this; if a thing happened at one window, and they, when relating it, say that it happened at another, do not let it pass, but instantly check them; you do not know where deviation from truth will end." On the other end of the spectrum, regarding historical facts lies Nietzsche, who argued, "There are no facts, only interpretations."

In the nine years since Kimball's excellent review ran, the general view of history and historical facts has only degenerated further. I have seen in countless critiques of my own work, for example, that recalling historical facts will only rekindle the hatreds of the past. Of course, the opposite is true: recalling the past, and the facts of history, is an important, indeed, critical antidote to hatreds, as they offer the only sure way of avoiding the errors of bygone eras.

If we refuse to acknowledge those errors, we are consigned to repeating them. And today, with so much emphasis placed on the importance of relative "narratives" and so little emphasis placed on facts, knowledge itself--and all the libraries that secure it--stands highly at risk.

This book is a fantastic and much needed treatment for the disease of relativism. Not only does it offer myriad details on the various schools of thought that have brought us to the current desperate pass, but it contains a stunning set of historical facts as well.

One learns for example a bit about the Aztecs' conquest by Cortes, the mutiny on the HMS Bounty in 1789, French deconstructionist Michel Focault, and the end of the cold war in 1989. Windschuttle uses those pieces of data to illustrate his points.

Today one risk one runs "in defending anything traditional is to be seen simply as a knee-jerk reactionary," he writes, "a middle aged academic defending the remnants of his own intellectual capital" while holding the fort against younger ideologues. But that reaction is a dead letter, as the vast majority of professors pushing "the new humanities" have entered their forties or fifties, and many of the Continental gurus that floated these history-bashing ideas are "already dead."

No, the truth and history are at stake. Windschuttle makes a great case for studying the "old-fashioned" facts. Let us hope that a majority in the professoriate soon see the light of his wisdom.

--Alyssa A. Lappen
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